Veterans Day is the one day each year that is set aside to honor all those who have served and who are serving in our military. For me, this day ranks right up there with Independence Day and Memorial Day.
I can think of no higher honor, as a human being, than serving others. It is truly humbling to know that our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, parents and grandparents, neighbors and fellow citizens selflessly answer the call to duty in service to our great nation.
This day is very personal to me as I know it is for many of my readers. Like you, I have generations of family members who have served in the military through times of peace and war from this nation’s founding to our Operation Enduring Freedom. It is an important day and just thinking about what these veterans have done for this country gets me emotional.
A few years ago at a family gathering, I was able to recognize my uncle Bob who had served in Korea. My brother and I gave him a much deserved shadow box recognizing his military service. I felt it was important because he never had anything like that given to him to memorialize his efforts. I also knew that, unfortunately, many Americans were not very supportive of that conflict – much like Vietnam – and his sacrifice needed to be recognized.
I attempted a speech to commemorate and thank my uncle for his selfless service but couldn’t complete it. My words were stuck in my throat, unable to pass over my lips, caught up in a fire of hot emotion in my chest. My brother took over where I left off in tears. My uncle Bob, now 83, never asked for anything when he came home, he just did his part in a faraway land and then carried on with his life.
Over the years he hardly ever spoke about his war experiences as many combat vets often do. But on one occasion not too long ago he related to me a glimpse at the experiences he had with fellow soldiers while making their way across that rugged terrain in Korea. He spoke about marching up and down muddy roads in cold conditions with little gear, rations and not enough clothing to keep a mouse warm. He made mention of combat and sporadic fire fights here and there but always ending it with some quip or sarcastic remark – trying to minimize the event. Uncle Bob is and has always been like that, cracking jokes and one-liners and making light of things. That is how he has lived his life after coming home from that war, not asking for anything and just wanted to get on with his life, raise his family and work hard as a salesman.
In this community, it is not hard to come across a veteran since this has been a military town for so long. Veterans are all around us in the Leavenworth area. I see groups of men at McDonalds sometimes in the morning, drinking their morning cup of joe all the while proudly wearing their “Vietnam Veteran” ball caps and jackets. I figure they are conducting their version of a BUB – Battle Update Brief – chatting about the news and telling stories.
Many times I see them at a football game or around town. I catch a glimpse of a tattoo on a forearm or a precisely placed commemorative military pin on the lapel of a jacket or hat. These men and women are quietly carrying on with their lives after completing just 1 hitch or as many as ten.
They are our neighbors, friends, leaders, co-workers and strangers. They are like my Uncle Bob who did their duty, came home, assimilated back into society and who are quietly living their lives.
These folks are truly remarkable in that they don’t ask for anything in return for their service, except for one thing – our support. That’s all they want. While in uniform, they just wanted to know that when and if the call to go into harm’s way was made, that their fellow Americans had their back – that we have their six.
And we do.
But, I say that they deserve far more than just our support, as important as that is; they deserve our recognition and help 365 days a year. Just how do we do that? We do that by our words and actions. Sound off and tell a vet, young or old, that you care about him or her and that you are grateful for their service to our great nation. Thank them for their sacrifices. Buy them a cup of coffee, sit a while and enjoy some conversation and give a helping hand. You’ll be glad you did.
Unfortunately though, there is a darker side regarding our veterans, particularly from the most recent conflicts – Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The hard, cold, devastating truth is that according to the Veterans Administration, at least 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Yes, at least 22 fellow Americans who voluntarily served our country in time of war, survived in combat and came home but couldn’t find peace commit suicide each and every day.
That is just plain UNSAT.
These folks need our help. Please take time to do whatever you can to help all of our veterans. They are in dire need of our gratitude, love and admiration as well as medical and financial assistance. So, I ask you, on this Veterans Day, please go out and enjoy the day, have fun at the awesome Leavenworth parade, but reach out and shake a hand, give a hug and thank a vet for your freedom because it was paid for by their service.
Humbly, Viper One Six – Out.